A couple of weeks ago I went to the BBC's Media Futures Conference. The best bit of the day by miles was Peter Day.
He didn't speak, he only chaired a session. But he was very well briefed, very well prepared and he spoke persuasively and intelligently. He had this great quote from Paul Saffo, "Just because something is inevitably going to happen, it doesn't mean it's going to happen any time soon".
What struck me most was how he never once said, err.
Granted, Peter Day is a professional broadcaster and he's been doing it for years and years, but still, he never once said "err". Not once. No umm's, no erm's, no you know's. I was so startled by this I counted erms and umms for the other speakers. On average (and my survey wasn't very scientific admittedly) no speaker could get through one minute without and an erm or an umm or a you know.
I realise that dropping countless 'you knows' into a presentation is mainly a stylistic issue and in the right circumstances it can be effective, but more often than not it's just lazy. It's very easy in this industry to convince yourself that you're a good presenter when actually you're just average. Good speakers are people like Peter Day, Tony Blair or Winston Churchill. As Jon Steel points out in his brilliant book (you have read that book haven't you?) Winston never needed any PowerPoint to get his point across. Neither did Peter Day.
I know Blair and Churchill and the like are talking about much more important things than the difference between Arial and Helvetica, but even your local MP could stand up for 45 minutes and give a competent speech about the local door knob society. No notes, no PowerPoint, no erms. John Dodds once saw Seth Godin stand on a char (in the middle of Buckingham Palace or somewhere) and talk about funny coloured cows for nearly an hour. Could you do that?
Next time you speak, try and do it without any erms.